The U.S. government has arrested and charged the creator of “Mutant Ape Planet” non-fungible tokens (NFTs) for allegedly defrauding crypto investors. “The purchasers were ‘rug pulled,’” the Department of Justice (DOJ) described, adding that millions of dollars in cryptocurrency were diverted for the NFT creator’s personal benefits.
DOJ Takes Action Against NFT Rug Pull Scheme
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Thursday that Aurelien Michel has been charged with “defrauding purchasers of ‘Mutant Ape Planet’ NFTs, a type of digital asset, of more than $2.9 million in cryptocurrency.”
The defendant is a French national residing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He was arrested Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The Mutant Ape Planet (MAP) NFTs were marketed and sold with false promises of numerous rewards and benefits, including exclusive opportunities for additional investments, giveaways, merchandise, and other rewards, the DOJ detailed, elaborating:
After selling out of the NFTs, the purchasers were ‘rug pulled’ … Millions worth of the NFT purchasers’ cryptocurrency was diverted for Michel’s personal benefit.
Mutant Ape Planet is a collection of 6,799 unique mutant apes that has no relationship with the popular Bored Ape Yacht Club, a different set of monkey-themed NFTs.
Ivan J. Arvelo, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York, described: “Aurelien Michel perpetrated a ‘rug pull’ scheme – stealing nearly $3 million from investors for his own personal use.”
The DOJ noted that “in a social media chat with current and prospective purchasers, Michel admitted to the fraudulent ‘rug pull,’ but blamed the community of NFT purchasers for his actions, stating, ‘We never intended to rug but the community went way too toxic.’”
While the Mutant Ape Planet NFT developers “promised to fund a community wallet for marketing, and would offer purchasers raffles, giveaways, airdrops, and tokens with staking features,” the DOJ said:
The purchasers of the Mutant Ape Planet NFTs did not receive any of the promised benefits set out above.
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